As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Public Option Has Become The Ballgame On Health Care

Ed Schultz is reporting on a new NBC poll showing that Americans, for the most part, want a public option in their health care plan. Here's a link.

On health care, the public remains open to persuasion. Without being told anything specific about the Obama plan in the survey, about a third of people said it's a good idea, about a third said it's a bad idea and the rest had no opinion. When given several details of his approach, 55% said they favored it, versus 35% who were opposed.

There was also support for the Democratic push to let people sign up for a public health-care plan that would compete with private companies, one of the toughest issues in the health-care debate. Three in four people said a public plan is extremely or quite important. But when told the arguments for and against the plan, a smaller portion, 47%, agreed with arguments in support of the plan, with 42% agreeing with the arguments against it.

At the same time, nearly half the participants said it was very or somewhat likely that their employer would drop private coverage if a public plan were available.

He was extremely animated, saying that Americans need to get in the face of their representatives and let them know exactly what they want - a strong public plan option to keep insurance companies honest and force a driving down of costs in the system in general.

In addition, people want no part of taxing health care benefits. In other words, the Obama Administration, which has come out in support of a public plan option and against taxing health benefits (or at least lukewarm to it), is getting the politics right. But Congress is not. They're offering half measures and calling compromises not run by the public sector as the "public option."

Chuck Todd's more measured response, which I also generally agree with, was that Americans will support a plan that has something tangible they can touch and feel, and the public option has supplied that space. MedPAC or e-health records will never do that, and taxing health benefits - which is not even really what's being proposed, we're talking about limiting or capping the exclusion - would tangibly feel like the taking away of something. I know that some health care wonks discount the importance of a public plan, but clearly, from a political standpoint, it's the whole ballgame.

...As usual, Ezra Klein makes a crucially important point here. The public option is ALREADY a compromise away from single payer. So the Schumer plan or the Kent Conrad co-op plan would represent a compromise of a compromise of a compromise.

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